The United Nations Regional Office for Arab States for Disaster Risk Reduction organized a webinar on 7 May 2020 to discuss possible ways for businesses to recover from COVID 19 consequences in the Arab countries.
The webinar shed the light on the significant impact of COVID 19 on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the Arab countries as many SMEs face significant challenges, the increased likelihood of closure, the stumble in wage payments, the difficulty of collecting financial benefits and many other challenges.
The Chief of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in the Arab States, Sujit Mohanty, spoke about COVID -19 impact on small and medium-sized enterprises, given the major closure and economic downturn not only across the region, but worldwide. He said: “ESCWA estimates a decline in the gross domestic product of countries in the Western Asia region by about 42 billion dollars in the current year, and economic losses for business sectors in the region during the period from January to March 2020 are estimated at about 420 billion dollars, or 8% of the region wealth.
Saif Juma al-Dhaheri, Director of the Department of Safety and Prevention, spokesperson for the National Authority for Emergency, Crisis and Disaster Management(NCEMA) said: “The UAE has succeeded in anticipating the possibility of a crisis similar to what we are witnessing today and preparing for it, and that allowed the UAE to be one of the first countries to face the consequences of the pandemic effectively, and succeeded in the rapid transition to activate distance work and education without obstacles. He added that the UAE succeeded in converting more than 180 government services in 34 entities to smart electronic services in a short time, which strengthened its efforts in combating the pandemic and reducing its spread through social isolation initiatives. He added that global estimates indicate that 49 million people in the world will enter extreme poverty. It is estimated that about 8.3 million individuals have reached this stage in Arab countries.
Ahmed Riad, a board member of the UNDRR Global Private Sector Alliance (ARISE), referred to the importance of SMEs to the Arab countries economies, with 400,000 companies in the UAE, representing 69% of non-oil companies and absorbing 86% of the private sector workforce. The number of SMEs in Egypt is 2.5 million companies representing 75% of the workforce, and in Saudi Arabia 950 thousand companies represent 90% of registered companies, and more than 60% of the workforce.
The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Arab state ARISE are keen to achieve many of the strategic objectives associated with the response to COVID-19 pandemic, one of the main activities emerging from these strategic objectives is to provide guidance and tools to implement business continuity within factories and companies, particularly small and medium-sized companies, in order to increase resilience in these enterprises. To improve the resilience of small and medium-sized companies there must be good risk management, an accident and emergency response structure and clear plans and procedures to ensure business continuity, so this dialogue session will be suitable for SME owners and we will work together to clarify the basis for developing an action plan to implement business continuity within these different entities.